Older Workers and Retirement Security: a Review

June 16, 2023

Working Paper | This article documents risks and disparities among older workers in the labor force and in retirement preparedness and explores the links between labor market challenges facing older workers and retirement insecurity.

Authors: Monique Morrissey (Economic Policy Insitute), Siavash Radpour, Barbara Schuster

The authors use survey data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to update and expand upon previous research on issues including retirement plan coverage and retirement account balances, as well as older workers’ labor force participation and employment, job quality, and job security. They show that while many older workers have little to nothing saved for retirement and cannot afford to retire, the advances in their employment prospects and job quality have been slow and unequal. Their findings reframe improving access to decent jobs as a complement to, rather than substitute for, retirement readiness.

Key Takeaways:

  • Due to systemic inequalities in access to and participation in retirement plans and the resulting inequalities in retirement preparedness, many older workers face a sharp drop in living standards at retirement.
  • Physically demanding jobs, poor health, job loss, and age discrimination, make working longer unattainable for a significant proportion of older workers, including many who cannot afford to retire.
  • There is a two-way connection between work and retirement insecurity: bad jobs lead to bad retirements, and retirement insecurity locks older workers into bad jobs. The ability to retire or seek better jobs allows older workers to negotiate for better pay and working conditions.

Download the working paper here.